Miracles

Apparently I stopped believing in miracles. I’m not sure when it happened, or actually even why.

Growing up I never believed in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, and due to a mishap involving my first lost tooth and a furnace vent, the Tooth Fairy and I didn’t coexist in my reality for long either. Yet I always, since before I can remember, believed in miracles.

Until this past week when I realized that I don’t believe any longer.

Maybe it came from years of seemingly unanswered prayer for miraculous healing from Crohn’s Disease.

Perhaps it’s from years of working around sick and often dying children, watching time and time again as a child slips away from the arms of a pleading, bargaining, begging mother.

Maybe it comes from an unwarranted sense of control paired with perceived understanding of the world around me. The world was mysterious when I was a child, so miracles were welcome wonders. Now, there doesn’t seem to be space for them in this world I so intelligently understand.

I have stopped hoping as the parents around me hope. I have stopped praying as they do on their knees, on their feet, surely even as they lay in bed before tossing and turning for brief moments of sleep as their world crumbles down around them.

What’s worse, I have grown irritated by the irrational, unrealistic, recklessly optimistic attitudes around me. Often muttering in the privacy of my own head “are we looking at the same child, are we seeing the same thing? How can you possibly have hope? How can you possibly imagine a positive outcome?”

I have become the Grinch who stole miracles, packing my bag full of the last ounces of joy and hope, certain that no positive will come. Wishing for it, hoping for it, clinging to it is a waste of time and energy. My heart is two sizes too small. I am worse than a three decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce.

I recently cared for a patient near the end of his life. Medically speaking his situation was hopeless, which as a nurse, makes me feel hopeless, helpless, defeated, and failed. My usually sunny disposition melts away under my sarcasm and snark.

Because I no longer believe in miracles.

His mother came in to see him. I had prepared myself to support her, imagining she would crumble into a pile of tears, falling apart being the only possible manifestation of the hopeless emotions I was feeling amplified by her mother’s love.

Our God is faithful. She said, with a smile on her face, the sunshine of hope in her eyes.

Cancer is faithful I snipped back in my mind.

We still believe He can heal him. She continued, as if she had heard what I was thinking.

I believe that if I went home and the doctors went home, cancer would win lady, right here, right now. It is over, we lost this one.

For a brief moment my frustration turned to guilt for my lack of faith, then to jealousy for her overflowing devotion to a God I sometimes long to hear, likely due to my recent failure to ask for Him to speak.

I pulled myself back to the reality of where I stood with her. I provided updates, what we were doing for him, what his body was doing in return. In a laundry list of updates, perhaps two things were positive. She thanked me for the information, repeating back the minor positive notes I had given.

Again I began to feel my irritation welling up. Do you really not understand the gravity of this illness? I wanted to ask.

And then, yet again, as if she had heard me, she replied with this. Shrinking me back to size, putting me back in my place.

A positive attitude gives us power over our circumstances, rather than allowing our circumstances to have power over us.

I was stunned. Here I was, judging her positive attitude as a fault or a flaw. Completely disregarding the choice that it was. Similar to the choice she was making to believe God for a miracle. It wasn’t blind faith. It wasn’t negligent belief. It was strength, and devotion. The choice to believe in something more powerful than me, more healing than the doctors on our team.

When I came out of the room, tears welling in my eyes, I sat at my computer, and looked down at a small plate of candies she must have left for me on her way into the room. A hand written note was laid above them,

“Kate, your devotion is so appreciated, S.”

S, it is your devotion that I am appreciating today. And because of you, mother of my patient, I am beginning again to believe in miracles. Because in the depth of despair over losing your beloved son you took me into your arms, and guided me back onto a track where love is real, positive thinking is a choice that saves us, and miracles do happen.

So today, I too am praying for a miracle for your son. And as I pray, with a positive attitude and a humbled heart, I am referring to Psalm 30, my personal favorite, and one I know we both can love.

Today

Some days something amazing happens, the day stays solidified in your memory forever. Other days are nothing special, a series of hours stitched together with nothing unique, nothing noteworthy, nothing memorable occurring. The day passes, you go to sleep, and prepare to awake another day, not knowing whether it will be one forever in your mind, or one forgotten as a series of forgettable breaths, one after the other.

Today, so far, is one of those moment-less days. I woke up, I made coffee, I did crunches, I did laundry, I washed my floors. In three years, or even three weeks, the contents of today will be a distant memory, perhaps forgotten completely. And that’s ok.

But today, in all of its monotony, something feels different.

Today, I am aware that I am breathing. I am aware that my heart is beating. My kidneys are perfused, my brain is controlling all of the involuntary events that it needs to. I have eaten twice and my stomach is pain free. I exercised this morning, not because I have to, but because I can. I walked around the corner to the laundry mat, up and down the stairs in my building, through my apartment as I cleaned. I can walk. It isn’t work for me, I learned how to before I can remember, and I never needed to learn again.

Today, I am aware how magical and special life is. You see, not everyone woke up this morning. Not everyone is breathing on their own, not every heart is beating without assistance. Some who wanted to weren’t able to exercise today. Others had to work-out, their health is at risk if they do not. There are many who could not walk today, or as I write are spending hours sweating through learning to walk again. They once spent their days mindlessly performing tasks as I am, but due to an illness or trauma have to relearn these simple things.

Today I am thinking and breathing and circulating. And so are you! How lucky are we?

So take the energy you don’t have to spend learning to walk, trying to breath, working to communicate. Instead, pour that energy into the people around you. Love them, listen to them, try your best to understand them, accept that maybe you don’t, but love them anyways.

The coolest thing about being human is our capacity to love. Are you exercising yours to the fullest?


Everyday think as you wake up,
Today I am fortunate to have woken up.
I am alive. I have a precious human life.
I am not going to waste it.
I am going to use all of my energies to develop myself,
To expand my heart out to others.
To achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all others.
I am not going to get angry or think badly about others,
I am going to benefit others as much as I can.

-The Dalai Lama

Patience

When I was in fifth grade we were taught a unit on “Virtues.” We had a textbook and all, covering topics from charity and kindness to humility and patience. We learned about each of them; what they meant, what it looked like to embody them, what it looked like when someone lacked them.

My best friend often says, semi-sarcastically,

“Patience is a virtue.”

“One that I lack.”

I often reply, with painful honesty.

I am many things, but I have never been called patient. In fact, to the contrary, throughout my life I have been reminded over and over again of my lack of patience. I want results and I want them now. If they aren’t coming naturally I will find a way to speed the process through my own control. It is a habit that I am well aware has often, if not always, resulted in something along the spectrum of a somewhat-bad situation to true disaster.

I have written many times of my need to slow down. To relax, breath, let go. In short, I need to learn to be patient. By definition, patience is the ability or willingness to suppress relentlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.

I detest that delay.

As I look back this Sunday, as I often do at the end of the week, I can break its events down into multiple different patience-imprinted slaps in the face.

It started when I came across a quote earlier this week.

A moment of patience in a moment of anger can save a thousand moments of regret.

Wow. In addition to my lack of patience there is my fiery personality. It makes me fun, bubbly, entertaining, but in an argument, it makes me an absolute beast. When the two combine I become a beast who isn’t willing to back down, cool off, wait it out, and revisit a topic at a later time. It prevents arguments from becoming an opportunity to change and grow. It instead makes them emotional assaults on myself and whoever I am arguing with.

So all of that post-argument regret is on my own shoulders? It could be prevented with a deep breath and a moment of pause? Wow. Maybe I do need to be more patient?

The invisible hand swung down across my surprised and stinging face.

I have a few friends experiencing hard times or transitions right now. I try to be sensitive, supportive, present for them. But secretly, and please don’t tell them I told you this, the instinct in my head is to say “Good God, my friend, get over it already!”

Some friend I am right? Here I am, attempting to be supportive, yet screaming quietly “Just be patient, it will get better!” when I, the advice giver, am completely unwilling to patiently wait out the hurt with them. To let them take as long as they need to heal and recover, to feel whole once again. Some friend I am, right?

The invisible hand swung down again, and slapped my self-righteous face.

And then I made a mistake. The ICU is fast paced, you learn to move fast, think fast, act fast, chart fast, pee fast. The list goes on. This speed has transferred itself into my daily life. The mistake was minor, there were no negative consequences, it could have been worse, but it wasn’t. I walked away with the most damage having been done to myself. But it was a close call, and it left me shaken, embarrassed, scared, upset, frustrated. “I understand. I prefer to be perfect too.” my sister in law replied when I told her. I can’t say for certain that the mistake would not have occurred if there had been more time, but, I am certain that most mistakes are preventable with a little extra time given to them.

This time the invisible hand swung at me twice, completing a full slap and reversing for the backhanded reminder that patience doesn’t only protect myself, but others as well.

So this weekend, I am trying to be patient. As I write, I am set up at my desk, sun shining through the windows, coffee within reach. I rarely write this way anymore, too impatient to set up a workstation for myself. I am almost embarrassed to say how much easier it felt to write from this spot today, another reminder of the importance of this patience thing. There is corned beef cooking on my stove, for over five hours as instructed! Talk about patience… watching and smelling that for five whole hours!

Between paragraphs I rewarded myself with a break. I slid my mouse over to Instagram where I was immediately faced with an image of this verse from the book of Proverbs,

“Better to be patient than powerful;
better to have self-control than to
conquer a city.” Proverbs 16:32

And this time, instead of one hand, there were two. And instead of a slap, they cupped my face, gently and tenderly. A voice whispered,

Slow down Kate, be patient. Suppress your annoyance when confronted with delay. Embrace the delay.

Love

Last year for Mother’s Day I wrote a post about all of the wonderful life lessons I learned from my Mom. I had intended all along to do the same honoring my Dad for Father’s Day, but the day came and went and the post never made it online. We ended up spending the weekend in the Berkshire’s, the five of us: Mom, Dad, Matty, Liana (my sister in law), and me. I intended to write in the car but it never happened, and then we were all together. One thing I have always been aware of in my family is that time is always more valuable than words, so rather than sneak off to write a flattering post to publicly acknowledge my Dad’s awesomeness I instead spent time with him. A gift I know he far preferred.

Since that day however, I have regretted never putting into words all of the amazing things my Dad has taught me about life. The man who sacrificed so much to be present in my childhood and now my adult life, a man who befriends strangers and has more than once stood as a groomsman in weddings of men my own age. A man who drives at a seemingly snail’s pace but as a result can see an animal across a distant field as he drives past, slowing down even more to point them out. A man who is goofy beyond compare, so comfortable in his own skin that it seems impossible to imagine the insecurities that plagued his past.

He is a man whose hugs have a reputation all their own. My dad is tall so his hug envelopes you into his arms just below your shoulders. At the moment that a normal hug would end and you begin to feel that this one should too, he pulls you just a little closer, holds just a little tighter, and something inside of you melts, relaxes. By the time he lets go you are just beginning to wonder if you could actually stay there forever. Inside my dad’s hug is the safest place I have ever known, and if they served snacks there, it is a place I would never leave.

On a recent trip home I told a few friends I planned to spend the weekend with my parents. ach and every one of the friends immediately replied instructing me to give my Dad a hug for them. So I did. I stood with him in the living room and for each friend he hugged me, he spoke encouragement for each of them, individually, knowing what was going on in their lives. He asked questions, he held me, then he let go and we moved on to the next friend. In that moment I was simultaneously amazed that this was what each friend thought of, thrilled at the marathon of hugs, and astonished at the amount my Dad knew about each of them, the thoughtful nature of his comments.

Over the past few months as I have crafted what to say and when I have considered so many categories of what my Dad has taught me; to be present, to see, to watch quietly and move slowly, to sacrifice for the good of others, to love with abandon. And then, this morning the simplicity of the answer dawned on me. All of the things I have learned from my Dad compile together to one lesson.

Love

My Dad has taught me more than anything else how to love. In medicine a heart that is too large is harmful, but my Dad’s huge heart seems only to heal those he encounters.

As a child, I experienced my Father’s love in his presence and time. He watched me dance almost every night, for hours, after long busy days at work. Never once did he check his watch, lift the daily paper, or reach for the television remote. He was simply present and patient, watching me jump across the living room in costume after costume.

I learned about love from the way my Dad looks at my Mom, like she is the only woman in the world. The way he used to leave work when they lived in New York City and go to watch her rehearse rather than go home to relax after a long and busy day.

I learned love from the way my Father has learned to understand, appreciate, and be excited for the things my brother values. Things that weren’t part of his life previously, but that developed huge importance simply because they mattered to his son.

As I have grown and moved away, taking me farther and farther from my parents, my new and wider perspective has only allowed me to see more broadly the way my Dad loves. The way he cares for other people is inspiring, the vulnerability he takes on in being present and genuine with them is refreshing, if not intimidating. Recently, I have watched from afar as my Father experienced the loss of an extremely close friend. It has broken me to watch him experience his mourning and letting go. It has hurt me to not be there to support him through it. Yet it has amazed me to watch the love that he has poured out over the last few weeks and months to his friend, his friend’s family, and to all others he came in contact with through the experience.

Strangely, it was in watching this, in hearing him talk about his dear friend and the things he will miss, the amazing qualities this person had that the world is now without, that I began to see the quality of my Dad’s love. The lessons that are in it for me, and all those he encounters.

Love is Patient

Love is Present

Love Asks (and actively listens to the answer.)

Love Gives

Love Laughs

Love is Vulnerable

So as my Dad mourns and enters this next stage of his life without this dear friend by his side, I can only hope that I will use all of these things I have learned from him about love, and give them back.

I look exactly like my mother and in certain areas we are so similar, some good, some not so good. I am built like my father, long and lean, and we are similar in many ways too. Some good, some not so good. But my one hope is this, I hope that one day, maybe years down the road, people will look at me, and say,

“That Kate, she loved, just like her Father.”

Hope

The word hope hung above the doorway in the living room of my old house in Syracuse. I had put it there in the series of rooms labelled Faith, Hope, and Love. Each title fit it’s corresponding room perfectly. Hope represented the dreaming, planning, and sharing that occurred in that room. Second only to stools I put in the kitchen for friends while I cooked, the couch in the living room was the most visited spot in my house.

It was on that brand new couch that I sat the night I closed on the purchase of my house, not yet moved in other than the new furniture delivered that day. I sat eating pizza off of paper plates, sipping on whiskey a friend had jokingly brought for my dad. I ate full of hope for the life that I would build there.

I cried on that couch with many friends over cups of tea. At losses of lives over too soon, lost love, and shattered dreams or fear of their lack of replacement.

It was on that couch that I sat last April, trembling at the news of the bombings at the Boston marathon within blocks of my sister in law’s store, waiting with hope to hear that she was ok.

It was on that couch, wine in hand that I pulled out a pile of wedding catalogs to congratulate a friend on her engagement.

And it was on that couch that I researched, planned, and solidified my arrangements to move to New York City. Hopeful that I was making the right choice.

Early into the strategizing of my move I began to parcel out all of my belongings amongst friends. Concerned that people would question my motives in giving away almost all of my worldly possessions I later chose to rethink my plan. It was clear that some items, like a large box of kitchen appliances and another two of serving dishes would require a storage unit and once that was decided the list of things I would keep continued to grow. By the time I left Syracuse I had a storage unit filled with boxes, end tables, a futon, my desk, a bed, a couch, and more boxes of miscellaneous items I may some day want again.

When I signed a lease in New York and moved into my new apartment some items left storage and joined me here. Others, however, stayed. My table was too large for a city kitchen, living room too small for a large couch, and despite ample cabinet space, I couldn’t justify all of my kitchen appliances, although I do miss my chocolate fountain almost daily.

A few weeks ago, a conversation led to my storage unit. I was questioned on why I had chosen to pay to hold onto these leftover items. I tried to reply, unable to give a rational reason aside from the fact that they held sentimental value.

“That’s a lot to pay for a memory, don’t you think?”

He had a point. I still plan to save the table and the boxes need sorting before throwing away, but I had no intentions to repurpose the couch. Given my track record would surely decide to purchase a new one for my next space one day. The one in storage served no purpose than that of my illogical fear of letting go.

So thus began the next stage of my move. A family friend took the futon as my parents searched for a home for the couch.

They found a young girl they know who was willing to take it. So last week my dad and his friend moved the couch into the home of Monu, a deaf refugee who last year went door to door searching for others like her, offering to teach them American Sign Language.

I received an email from my mother yesterday. Attached was the picture below from Monu. With a note.

Monu's Couch

Your couch, full of deaf refugees. Before the couch we sat on the floor.

What are you holding onto, selfishly that can bring someone else up off of the floor?

Let it go.

Sometimes, hope means lightening our grip of the past, of our baggage and stuff, allowing the letting go to bless others. To bless us.

My couch is still full of hope. Today though, it is someone else’s. And in the moments when life seems to constantly tear my hope away, seeing that is exactly what I’ve needed.

Peace

It seems to be pretty universally established at this point that I love to talk. In the rare and intermittent times that I am not talking, out loud, I am typically, as of late, at least writing in my head. And on the even rarer occasions that I am doing neither of the previously mentioned things, it is a safe bet that my mind is at least blanky, racing.

I am planning, plotting, writing lists, revising lists, creating recipes, coordinating outfits, revisiting lists, and altering recipes, making plans, changing plans, the list is endless. Needless to say, my mind is rarely quiet, my life is rarely at peace.

This past Sunday, I found myself on a single day off in the midst of a stretch of many days at work. Typically I dread this single day of freedom, it hardly feels like enough time to catch up on rest, let alone catch up on all the neglected areas that are the result of multiple 12 hour shifts. I often find myself, in the midst of preparation for one of these singular days off, struggling to decide if it will be a relaxation day or a catch up day, convinced it simply is not possible to make it both.

That’s the beauty of the weekend, it allows you a day for each. And don’t get me wrong, my schedule allows for amazing amounts of time off, but every once in a while, in one of these long stretches, that lonely day off is hardly enough. I went into the day stressed about it. I was almost out of clean scrubs, I was certain there was a dirty dish or two in the sink, and it had to be at least a week since I last scrubbed my toilet. I felt overwhelmed by the amount of catching up I had to do. I went into the day with full intentions of work, work, and work.

And then it came. Instead of sleeping in, the one luxury I had allowed myself in planning, my eyes popped open at 7am ready to face the day. I finally pulled myself out of bed and started the day early. I ran out to grab a cleaning supply I needed, deciding to allow Starbucks to brew my morning coffee. As I stepped into the street I was greeted by a dear friend I had sorely missed. He too had woken early and chosen to venture into the city streets. I was finally enjoying a day off, and he was finally working. He being the sun.

I felt a smile spread across my face as I was shocked by the lack of bitter cold and cruel darkness. The sun makes all the difference.

I will spare you further boring details, but a day whose intentions had been work turned into something so much more, something I needed more than I may ever need a clean toilet.

Desperate to not miss the joys of the sun a friend and I walked to brunch by way of the park. Surrounded by runners and other casual walkers I was warmed by the community of a Sunday in the park, the community of the temporary break from a rather harsh winter. With full bellies we continued to walk. We wove through a farmers market on the Upper West Side and then cut back into the park at one of my favorite areas. As we neared one of the lakes, my friend pointed to a quiet gazebo-type structure tucked away down by the water. We walked down and sat on benches under the protection of the structure. The frozen lake was at our feet, scattered rose petals over the ice. On the surrounding shores of the lake I could see many other people enjoying the park, but I could not hear them. Tucked down by the water I could not hear the busy sounds of the city streets. Even as others ambled down to where we sat, they too were quiet and unobtrusive.

I felt warm and still. I felt quiet and calm.

I thought back to a song I remember often singing in church, the chorus says

You’re calling me to lay aside the worries of my day,
To quiet down a busy mind and find a hiding place…

But how rarely do I do that? How rare is it that I truly lay aside my worries, and as importantly genuinely quiet down my busy mind.

A sudden peace washed over me as I sat in a small gazebo, on a small bench, on a little lake, in a big park, in a bigger city. It suddenly felt easier to breath. I closed my eyes and sat, taking in the quiet, the warmth, the stillness. I could not tell you when I last felt that peace.

As the time came to walk on, I at first hesitated, not wanting to leave that place or that feeling. But as I rose to move, I realized that the peace was coming with me.

All week, that peace has stayed with me.

Through chaos at work, through conflicts with people I love, through their resolution. This week as I have felt anxious or inadequate, through feelings of failure and insecurity, I have stayed full of that peace. I have revisited it daily.

As this weekend approaches, as you make your plans, I encourage you to find a moment and a place to find that peace for yourself.

To lay aside the worries of your day, to quiet down your busy mind, to find a hiding place.

For me this week, it has made all the difference.

If People Were Pies

A recent conversation with a friend ventured to a frequently discussed topic with women in their late twenties and early thirties; relationships. Despite the fact that women truly seem to beat this topic to death with a club, we have good reason to discuss it so much. It often engulfs us, becomes our primary focus. I can’t help but wonder if men are the same way, but just don’t have the energy to actually use their words to talk about it, but I doubt it. Anyway, the point is, in the midst of our conversation my friend said this,

“I wish relationships were simple.”

It isn’t like the statement is earth shattering, or even one I have never heard before. But it held a new truth hearing her say it this time. A new truth given the complexity of humans that becomes increasingly clear as I venture farther and farther into the years of my life.

I responded “nothing is simple. Except baking, of course.”

And here lies the juncture between two of my greatest passions, people and baking. With baking, you know what you are getting into, and you know what you will get out of it in the end. It is predictable, consistent. The correct ratio of flour, butter, vanilla, and sugar will always yield a perfect piecrust. Sure, you can spice it up or mess it up. But, if you pay attention, you do it correctly, you bake it at the right temperature for the right amount time, you are guaranteed a life changing, mouth watering, pant size increasing experience of melt in your mouth piecrust after about 20 minutes at 375 degrees.

I escape to the kitchen for this reason. It is a place where I can unwind, unthink, undo, and redo. Recover, rejuvenate, recuperate, and move on from the inconsistencies, fears, and vulnerabilities that are human relationships. I can shut my mind off and know that I will have a pie at the end, or a cake, or cookies.

I developed my love of the kitchen early into my illness in high school. I had just been diagnosed with Crohns Disease and wasn’t yet well enough to be back in school. My days were spent at home with my grandmother, playing cards, watching movies, interspersing small short activities between stretches of naps and bubble baths. I have often thought that my love of cooking perhaps came from a period of wanting nothing to do with eating, so why not cook? But now, looking back, I can’t help but wonder if it was in fact about control.

I spoke to my mom on the phone the other day. She and my dad are currently shaken by the terminal illness of a dear friend. My dad had spent the day in the hospital. My mom on the other hand, spent the day in the kitchen. “What did you do today?” I asked, “I baked emotional cookies.” she replied. Apparently the apple didn’t fall far from the tree, or whatever it is they say about like mother like daughter.

The best part of baking is that once you get it, once you understand how it works, you can play around and have fun with it. You can experiment as long as you don’t stray from the basics and the results will be the same. Can you imagine if relationships were like this? If you could try something new without the fear or risk of getting hurt?

Investing in the kitchen isn’t a risk. Investing in people is all about risk.

People are so unpredictable. They will hurt you, disappoint you, doubt you, ignore you, stalk you, even harm you. Each one of us is full of scars from the people in our past. And sometimes, these scars can harm us just as much as the initial injury.

Two years ago I had a few episodes of serious pain and other stomach issues resulting in multiple hospital admissions, prolonged periods of liquid diets, and eventually, an unavoidable third operation related to my Crohns. The surgeon went in expecting to find new inflammation requiring another resection of my intestines. However, what he actually found was a nasty tangle of adhesions; scar tissues from previous surgery, that was strangling the good and healthy parts of my intestines. He was able to remove the scar tissue without needing to cut out more. But how symbolic is that?

All of these issues, all of the pain, weight loss, inability to eat solid food that I had suffered for over six months was all the result of scarring. Scarring from previous surgeries, previous attempts to make me well.

Sometimes, the scars that people have from the hurt in their past makes things just as complicated, just as painful as the initial harm. What’s worse is that with people, we take our pain and with it, intentionally or not, we inflict pain on others.

This is why relationships are so hard, so complex. We are billions of bundles of pain walking around. On the one hand protecting ourselves, assuming every future outcome will be similar to ones of the past.

“Every man will treat me the way he did,” or “any woman will be as harmful to me as my mother was.”

On the other hand, we fling ourselves around, haphazardly, assuming we are immune. Assuming that everything will be different this time. Repeating the same mistakes, fulfilling our destiny through the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result.

All of this ran through my head last night as I walked home. I looked around at the people passing me by, I no longer saw their jackets or hats, their faces or features, I began instead to just see pain, body after body of the results of and embodiment of the unpredictability of people. From the man on his phone discussing a coworker who had harmed his potential, the man leaving a corner store, two beers in a brown bag, an exhausted look on his face that implied more than a sleepless night a few hours prior, to the woman, nearly catatonic, eyes red, glazed, and fixed as she shuffled slowly up the street. Skin hanging on meatless bones, not properly covered by a coat for the cold, looking like something out of a movie or TV show, not out of my own neighborhood. I couldn’t help but wonder, what person made her that way? And who and what had happened to them before.

So no, my dearly loved friend, relationships are not simple because people are not simple. Relationships are full of risk, full of pain. They will scar you, mar you, make the future harder and the past unbearable. People are not like pies, although I sometimes wish they were.

But the thing that keeps us going, that keeps us holding on, is that at some point you find a person, or people that make you feel so overwhelmingly safe, so loved and protected, despite their pain, despite your own, and it is those pains that brought you together. So hold on, it isn’t simple but it is worth it. And it is so much better than pie.